Ben Rafiqi is a co-founder of Tabor House which opened 12 months ago as Birmingham’s only permanent night shelter, offering safety, support and warmth to those without life’s basic necessities.
BEEN THERE DONE THAT
I’ve done a range of jobs including an assistant harbour master, croupier, spice merchant, Encyclopaedia Britannica salesman and owned my own wholefood/organic shop in North London for 10 years. I’ve been an Evangelical Christian street preacher 22 years – and counting – during which time I’ve co-founded Let’s Feed Brum, a local soup kitchen/homeless charity which established a voluntary street outreach team for the rough sleepers in Birmingham city centre. Most importantly I’ve fathered three of the most beautiful children on earth and am grandfather to the cutest creature in the universe.
IT’S WHAT I DO
As one of the original members of the executive board that envisioned Tabor House, I am also directly involved in the day-to-day operational management team that runs the project. With the support of the most amazing group of volunteers Tabor House is a stepping stone for those sleeping rough in our city. It’s a place where someone can escape the relentless battle for survival on the streets, come back to themselves and begin the journey to getting back on the right track. I work directly with volunteers, operational staff, the board, and with each individual that stays in the night shelter.
WHAT I’D LIKE TO SEE?
Eight years ago, I felt a calling to engage with the homeless community in Birmingham. From small beginnings of befriending one or two rough sleepers and trying to meet their needs, my vision and ambition has developed to this goal… ‘That every single person that finds themselves sleeping rough in our city is afforded the opportunity to get love, support and care to come off the street and find a way to fulfil their potential and participate productively with our growing 21st century city.’ A day does not go by that I don’t feel a sense of shame as I walk by our rough sleepers. We need to do more.
Not losing my temper every few minutes! Channelling that emotion into constructive action.
BIGGEST LESSON LEARNED
Don’t have big expectations of yourself or other people. Never treat people as problems. Realise that communicating with each other and working together with honesty is the only effective way of overcoming challenges. Believe that God is real and active in every situation.
WHAT I LIKE ABOUT BRUM
I have lived in London, Oxford, on the Spanish Costas and the Netherlands and travelled extensively in Europe, visited the USA and Far East – but I’ve always liked the character of the Brummie people. They are warm, friendly and, most refreshingly, what you see is what you get!
I love every single moment I get to spend with my children and grandson. Photography, singing songs that break my heart… and looking into cold hard eyes that have given up and finding a flicker of warmth.
Quote for the day: “Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength.”